The almost unimaginable happened Nov. 2 as the Chicago Cubs broke the Curse of the Billy Goat and won Game 7 of the World Series after a drought of 108 years, the longest in the history of any professional sports team. An estimated 49.9 million people watched the game, making it the most-watched World Series game since Game 7 in 1991.
Other teams have had decades-long droughts, but none are as visceral as that of the Cubs, the perennial “lovable losers” of Major League Baseball. The losing streak is long been part of popular culture and the punchline of jokes. Yet, after a century without a World Series win, Cubs fans are somehow still some of the most dedicated in sports. To be a Cubs fan is to have boundless hope in the face of inevitable doom, like the Norse gods at Ragnarok, facing defeat either at the end of the season or in the playoffs.
With a 3-1 deficit going into Game 5, most expected Cleveland to finish off the Cubs and deprive them of a win yet again, but the Cubs battled back, winning the next three games, a rarity that has only happened five times: In 1925, 1958, 1968, 1979 and 1984.
In Game 7, the Cubs had a comfortable 6-4 lead until the bottom of the eighth inning when Cleveland’s Rajaii Davis hit a two-run homer to tie the score 6-6 and Cubs fans’ hopes of an easy win evaporated. The Cubs were on the road and had exhausted its bullpen in Games 6 and 7, leaving a lucky Cleveland run to end that team’s own 68-year drought and keep the Cubs winless for yet another year.
A 17-minute rain delay after the ninth inning served as intermission prior to the drama of extra innings and turned the game into the longest ever played in terms of total game time. In the 10th inning, the Cubs scored two runs and kept Cleveland to just one.
Finally with two outs and a potential scoring run on second base, the Cubs called up pitcher Mike Montgomery who threw only two pitches, but the only two that mattered: The first a ball to Michael Martinez, the second a grounder to third-baseman Kris Bryant, who threw it to Anthony Rizzo at first base for the third out. With a foot tap on the bag, after 108 years, the Cubs finally won.
When the Cubs last won the series, there were just 90 million people in the United States, the Ottoman and Austro-Hungarian empires were still major powers, “world war” referred the continental conquests of Napoleon Bonaparte, tuberculosis was a leading cause of death, and Mark Twain, Leo Tolstoy and Geronimo were still alive and well.
A century of bottled anticipation exploded as Cubs fans celebrated around the country. An estimated 5 million people attended the Cubs victory parade in Chicago on Friday, Nov. 3, making it the seventh largest gathering in human history and the largest ever outside of Asia.
Perhaps the victory came because there are 108 stitches in a baseball. Perhaps it’s because the Curse of the Billy Goat had just run its course. Perhaps it’s because the 2016 Cubs are athletically and statistically a great team — with an Elo rank of 70 out of 2,374 teams to play the game since 1903. Perhaps it’s because the Cubs’ victory comes six days before the most divisive presidential election in U.S. history and fate decided to give us something profoundly uplifting to remind us that what unites us is stronger than what divides us — the joy of watching a perennial underdog finally win.
With the Cubs’ championship losing streak broken, the Arizona Cardinals football team now has the dubious honor of having the longest drought in sports history at 69 years.